The Personal History of David Copperfield

Published in book form in 1850, ‘David Copperfield’ by Charles Dickens is a perennial mainstay. Filmed for cinema and TV numerous times, each have had their own take on the timeless story. ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ provides a consistently charming version. Under Armando Iannucci’s skilful direction, ‘Copperfield’ shows how you can successfully reinvent a 19th century story for 21st century eyes.

Living with his widowed mother and wicked step-father, David Copperfield (Dev Patel) dreams of better things. Sent to work at his step-father’s factory, he lodges with the kindly Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family. Desperate to escape his grey existence, he tracks down his wealthy aunt Betsey (Tilda Swinton) and her lodger Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). His life takes unexpected turns as he pushes ahead with his ambitions to be a gentleman and author.

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ is a very entertaining reimagining of the classic story. Those versed in Dickens would likely know the plot inside out but the film is also accessible for newer viewers. This is mainly due to the energetic and enthusiastic performances of its cast. All perfectly embody their roles and perfectly render Dickens’ prose with style.

This style also extends to Iannucci’s handling of the material. ‘Copperfield’ greatly benefits from his visual flair as it pushes the plot along at a cracking pace. This isn’t a standard ‘talk and shoot’ adaptation, but an often exciting and engaging tale all can enjoy. The set design also adds immeasurably to the glossy spectacle without overwhelming the heart of the piece.

If you’re unsure of which ‘Copperfield’ film to see, then ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ should be high on the list. Far from being an academic, dry exercise, it does justice to Dickens’ prose. More films done in this style should find new audiences for similar classic works proving well written stories can never go out of fashion.

Rating out of 10: 8


Before Sunset

Director Richard Linklater appears fascinated with time. ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Before Sunrise’ are about the passage of the years and how big or small moments change us. ‘Before Sunset’ was released nine years after ‘Sunrise’ in 2004. Highlighting Linklater’s time-influenced interest, ‘Before Sunset’ further explores the trials, the tribulations and the events which no one can avoid.

Nine years after their first meeting in Vienna, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet again in Paris. Their second encounter occurs during Jesse’s book tour promoting a novel inspired by their initial sojourn. Pleased to see each other, they take time out to wander the Parisian streets and catch up on life with their second meeting as potent as the first.

‘Before Sunset’ continues the successful formula of the first. It’s basically Jesse and Celine talking and walking around Paris. There’s no actual plot but that’s fine as the dialogue and chemistry between the leads is so good. As each revelation of their lives surface, it is easy being drawn in as Hawke and Delpy’s natural way of communicating underscores the film’s authenticity.

What’s not often talked about in these films are the location’s effectiveness. ‘Before Sunset’ greatly benefits from the Parisian locales. It mirrors the casual, laid-back nature of Jesse and Celine’s relationship. Each street corner opens up another topic for them to chat about, leading to further personal discoveries.

Linklater knows how to ensure his films are enriching viewing not sentimental but more of an engaging experience. ‘Before Sunset’ is another solid entry in the series with the desire to see what happens next increased as the end credits roll.

Rating out of 10: 8